There were just three of them and they definitely tried out everything to make the Khelo India Youth Games 2021 their happy hunting ground. Srinjoy Dutta, Abhinav Shaw and Swati Chowdhary represented Bengal in the 10m air rifle events at the Khelo India games, held at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi. While Srinjoy and Abhinav reached the top, it was not a favourable outing for Swati, who couldn't qualify for the final round of the girls' 10m air rifle event.
A known face, Abhinav Shaw already has had the distinction of becoming the youngest Khelo India Youth Games medalist ever at the age of 10, when he won the gold in the 2019 edition of the games in Maharashtra. Now at the age of 14, he bagged the silver at the boys' 10m air rifle event in KIYG Haryana. He wanted to win the gold, but it was the "last shot" which he rues, that made the gold slip away from his hand. Abhinav's State-mate Srinjoy bagged the gold after a closely-fought final round, with a score of 16-14.
"My goal is to win 2 gold medals in Olympics in the same edition, at the men's 10m air rifle and the mixed rifle event," said an ever-motivated Abhinav to the Sports Authority of India after the event. "I have been training under Suma Shirur Ma'am in Mumbai for the last 2-3 years and there has been a lot of improvement in my training and technique. Deepak Kumar Sir also helps me a lot and tells me how to calm myself as well as handle pressure, from the start to finish of the competition."
Tokyo 2020 Olympian Deepak has been a constant help for 19-year-old Srinjoy Dutta as well, who looks quite as calm, calculated and philosophical as his senior counterpart. "Deepak Kumar congratulated me after my gold medal win," Srinjoy said.
"He has motivated me a lot. He is my idol. He shoots very well and his mind is ever so calm. The biggest lesson I got from him is to take every big match as a practice, and not as pressure. Else, it will get on my nerves and I can't give my 100 per cent. This has been a very helpful life lesson for me."
Srinjoy has been training at the SAI NCOE Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range and he has acknowledged the help he has gotten in his career after coming here. "I started training at the KSSR after my participation at the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati, where I came 7th. After coming here, I got a lot of facilities, including physiotherapy, mental trainers and so on. The best part has been the administrative help in every possible way. I never used to get all these."
Srinjoy Dutta (right) with his father Shankar Dutta
Just like his painter father Shankar Dutta who fought all odds to get his son into shooting, Srinjoy speaks philosophically of all the struggles he has faced in his life and what he wants to achieve next.
"I battled depression after my rifle malfunctioned and also my mental state fell apart in the last few National level competitions. I also wasn't getting the scores I expected. But I got the support from my team and my dad was always beside me," said Srinjoy. "Slowly, my mental state picked up. I have struggled a lot and it is for those struggles that you see this performance from me today. If I wouldn't have got myself out of those hurdles, you wouldn't have seen me today.
"My next ambition is to score 10.9 in all of the 60 shots in a match," added Srinjoy, focused as ever and putting it across subtly. "It won't be a problem to get an Olympic gold if that aim is achieved. I am hoping to be there in the 2024 Olympics team and am confident to be there after all the struggles I've faced in my life!"